Once again, I am in the never-ending saga of moving. You’ve all done it at least once, I’m sure, and are probably all quite rather familiar with the hassles that ensue. When the move has started, it’s too late to worry about the safety of your new neighborhood, but there are things you can do to make the process and your new home safer right up front. Here are a few to consider next time you start packing up your life:
It’s inevitable that people will know or find out that you’re moving, but you can control the timing of when they find out and to some extent, control how much they know about where you’re going or even why. Not everyone needs your new address, and they don’t need pictures of your new home that give hints as to exactly where it’s located. You can pick the nearest sizable town to identify your new location, don’t include your street or apartment number when you post pictures, and avoid posting about just how close you now are to local attractions. It’s okay to talk in generalities and to be a little bit vague about where you’re going. And if someone wants to know why you moved, you aren’t under oath to tell them the whole truth. The reality might be that you’re in the middle of a separation or divorce, but you can simply say you were ready for a change of scenery.
On your first visit once you have access, take a walk around and check all of the doors and windows. It may seem elementary, but you want to make sure that you know how they work and that they’re locked or unlocked as you want them to be. This is a really good time to figure out that the garage doors don’t lock, but the door between the garage and the rest of the house does, or that a sliding door’s latch is a little cranky and you might want to pick up something to block the track, or that some of the windows don’t open at all. It’s not just a matter of securing your home, but also figuring out how you can get out if necessary. Take the time, too, to figure out where the breaker box is, not to mention any emergency shut-offs that you might need for gas and similar utilities. If you’re in a part of the world where storm shutters and other weatherproofing are a thing, get familiar with where they are and how to use them now instead of when you need them. If nothing else, right after move-in is when you’re most likely to still be able to communicate with the former residents or landlord about any questions or problems.
Change or add new locks to your new place, if you’re able. You don’t know who the prior residents trusted with keys, and you don’t know who had access to copy them in the past. Even if you are careful with who has keys to your home, those extra ones out there could result in a complete stranger walking through your front door. At best, they simply wouldn’t have known that their friend wasn’t living there anymore. At worst, you could lose everything you have. If you’re in a rental or otherwise unable to put in new locks (though ask your landlord to make sure), consider other methods of securing your home. Even a simple and inexpensive door wedge (like these: https://amzn.to/372hoy0 (affiliate link!)) can help keep the doors closed against strangers while you’re home, and that’s a good start. Also think about whether you want an alarm system or cameras, like the ever-popular Ring system (https://amzn.to/3qQgXif) or a Wyze camera like I’ve recommended before (https://amzn.to/3qFUT9H). They’re getting ever cheaper and easier to use, and often don’t require permanent installation so they can be used in rentals as well as homes that you own. They might not stop someone from coming in, but you’ll be able to tell if and when they do.
Update your insurance policies. Moving is perhaps the best time to realize just how much stuff you have and exactly what it is…at least if you actually unpacked all the way from the last time. That means it’s a good time to inventory any particular valuables and to make sure that your new homeowners or renters policy covers everything. Whether it’s having enough dollar value of coverage in place, ensuring that specific items aren’t excluded, or scheduling – listing – certain things so that they have additional protection, get everything up to snuff now. Then after you get it all crammed into your new place, walk around and get video and photo documentation of what you own. This is a tip I picked up from Condition Orange Preparedness in their riot preparation seminar but there’s no need to wait for civil unrest or an incoming natural disaster to make the most boring movie in the world, where you visually record all of your things in place so that if possessions are stolen, you can prove what you once had.
And finally, it’s tempting to use Internet classifieds to get rid of things you don’t want to move with you. It might seem a little bit safer to use your actual address as a pickup location since you won’t be there anymore after a certain date, but don’t forget the usual safety rules. Having people show up for contactless pickup and using electronic payment is still a good idea, especially in the age of pandemic. If being face to face is necessary, aside from virus considerations, consider having someone else home with you and making sure that you aren’t distracted with immediate move-related issues at the time. You don’t want someone picking up the couch you don’t want anymore at the same time your movers are there, for instance. Either way, don’t allow the buyer more than you’ve decided they can have, including access to your home. You may be on your way out of there, but that’s no reason to let a stranger looking to pick up a free desk from your front yard inside to use the bathroom. They don’t need to know you’re moving either, so maybe don’t tell them.
Personal safety is, as always, not just about what it takes to protect yourself from strangers who want to hurt you. It’s also about being safe from friends and acquaintances who might use an opportunity to harm you, and from less personal problems like severe weather or household fires. Taking all of the possibilities into account are what will keep you not just feeling safe, but also actually being safe.